Suspect in Pennsylvania Police Ambush Captured after Seven-Week Manhunt
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The survivalist suspected of killing a Pennsylvania state trooper in a sniper attack in September could face the death penalty, prosecutors said, after a seven-week manhunt in the Pocono Mountains ended with his arrest on Thursday.
Eric Matthew Frein, 31, had eluded capture by hundreds of law enforcement officers since the Sept. 12 ambush outside a state police barracks in Blooming Grove. The attack killed Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass, 31.
Frein's capture, about 35 miles south of where the ambush occurred, may finally shed light on the mysteries that have surrounded a brazen crime against law enforcement officers, and how the suspect was able to stay one step ahead of authorities for 48 days.
"Eric Frein had a mission and that was to attack law enforcement," Frank Noonan, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, told a news conference.
"If he got out of those woods, we were very concerned he would then kill more law enforcement, if not civilians," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Noonan said at this stage there was no indication of anyone else involved. He said police were seeking search warrants for places Frein may have stayed.
Prosecutors will seek capital punishment for Frein, who faces a first-degree murder charge and one count of homicide of a police officer, among others, Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said.
The manhunt has involved hundreds of officers from state, local and federal agencies, using helicopters, armored vehicles and sophisticated tracking technology.
In the end, officers from the US Marshals service on a routine patrol captured Frein at 6 p.m. outside an abandoned aircraft hangar at a shuttered resort in Tannersville, Pennsylvania.
Frein, who was on the FBI's most wanted list, surrendered without incident, police said, and two firearms were found in the hangar but Frein was carrying no weapons.
Afterwards, he was driven to the Blooming Grove barracks in the slain trooper's cruiser, wearing handcuffs, police said. He was then escorted past the spot in the parking lot where the two officers were gunned down during a midnight shift change and into the building.
The prosecutor said the suspect could be arraigned on Friday.
Police have said the suspect, an expert marksman who dressed like a Serbian soldier in a war reenactment group, held a longstanding grudge against law enforcement but they have provided little evidence. The sniper was not targeting any individual officer, they say.
Tannersville, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Philadelphia, is the center of the sprawling wooded terrain where police concentrated their search.
From the outset, authorities insisted that Frein, who lived with his parents in Canadensis, 20 miles south of the barracks, was hiding nearby, taking refuge in the dense state forests and game lands that blanket the region.
The heavy police presence and the aggressive tactics employed during the manhunt rattled many residents of the normally peaceful area of northeastern Pennsylvania, even as the shootings appalled the community.
The region, one of the popular places in the US Northeast for deer hunting, was put off limits to hunters this season, a big setback to the local economy.
Many parents near the search area were planning to stop their children from trick-or-treating on Friday. With Frein's capture, the annual rite of Halloween is likely to be back on.